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Norman Conquest, King Edward, cyber pathogen and illegal gambling all emerge in Apple v FBI

But it actually makes more sense than that


Taking a step back, it's fair to say that the majority of law-abiding citizens would want prosecutors to be able to access evidence that could help convict someone of a serious crime, regardless of how strongly they feel about their own personal privacy.

So the question then becomes: what is the solution? And where does the balance lie? Unfortunately for law enforcement, the Snowden revelations have given everyone reason to question any assertion that the authorities will only be accessing the data of suspect people.

We know that the US government kept the records of every single one of our phone calls. We know that they spied on everything everyone did online. We know that they tapped data centers and fiber optic cables and decided the best way for them to do their jobs was to assume everyone was guilty and gather all possible information on them in case it comes in handy later.

And we know they went out of their way to make sure no one knew about what they were doing. After all that, making the basic argument of "trust us" sounds, at best, hollow.

And yet, law enforcement's argument remains a good one, despite the appalling abuses of some arms of the US government.


There has always been an acceptance that those upholding the law can go through an independent legal process to bypass society norms about privacy. Why? Because society accepts that the people who break its rules and laws should not be able to rely on those same laws to prevent them from being punished.

It is why there are arrest warrants and search warrants and a whole range of extreme legal instruments that suspend the normal rules.

At the core of it, law enforcement is asking that we ensure that same long-held understanding is extended to the digital era.

As it stands, Apple's iPhone security features – and its refusal to offer a way around them – is breaking with the past. Public sentiment right now appears to be in favor of putting unbreakable protections on mobile phones, in large part because almost everyone owns one.

Smart phones are oddly personal devices and the idea of someone accessing them in a bid to find information feels, in some respects, even more violating than entering your home.

But law enforcement is trying to tell anyone that will listen a hard truth: you like it now, but wait until you or your family are at the end of a crime and the person walks free because they were unable to prove their case. Thanks to that black-screened iPhone. Then you may not back Tim Cook quite so strongly. ®

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